With the first day of classes behind them, Webb students are settling into their schedules for the new school year. Convocation taking place online for the first time in Webb history confirmed that it will be a year like no other. This year, with classes and school events beginning entirely online, students will have to overcome the challenges of online learning, embrace benefits that come along, and look actively for solutions.
Schools across the United States shifted from in-person to online learning at the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and parents have made their own opinions clear at this change in the learning system. USA Today draws some similarities between online learning and “hell” while others appreciate the security virtual learning offers. It is clear that this new form of learning has presented both challenges and unexpected benefits for students across the world.
At Webb, the administration has decided to ￼￼divide the year into six modules￼￼, but this may be subject to change in the future. The current online learning schedule proves to be a challenge for many students.
Some dislike the changes to the schedule, and multiple students have suggested that the new way of learning is not as effective compared to in-person classes.
“I’ve gotten so used to the three–block schedule,” said Alex Xiao (‘21). “I would prefer the old schedule over the new one.”
“I think that learning over zoom is very ineffective compared to an in-class setting,” said William Li (‘22). “Because there is not that inter-personal connection through the screen. I also get distracted easily at home.”
Besides lower efficiency, online learning has also posed huge challenges for students’ social life. Learning at home each day, students are no longer able to go to the dining hall with their friends, relax in the dorm, or attend weekly social events on campus, which were all important parts of each student’s life beyond the academics.
“I miss the interactions at school and seeing all my friends,” said Kalman Dong (‘22).
Furthermore, because of shortened classes, students have also incurred other difficulties with learning and focusing. It is not surprising that many students now miss seeing and interacting with the faculty and their friends, a struggle that has been exacerbated by a lack of interpersonal connection and distractions at home.
A lack of communication appears to be a common concern for most students, since they are limited by the 45–minutes classes to communicate with students behind a screen instead of a nearly unlimited amount of time without any barriers.
“I dislike the lack of personal connection as well as the amount of homework,” said Ryan Lin (‘21). “The 45-minute block is perfect timing to avoid burnout and fatigue, though.”
“Zoom can be somewhat glitchy at times, and it is very time consuming for [the] already short classes,” said Abbie Arroyo (‘21). “The fatigue of being online for so long is another downside.”
Exhaustion is starting to catch up to some students, as the increase in work means more time behind the screen. Under the new learning module, students not only have a different social life but need to adapt to completely new learning schedules. For many students, the unsettling shifts in the schedule as well as the workload contributed to their stress.
“I don’t really like the 45-minute classes, and it’s hard to learn new and challenging concepts in such a short class time,;” said Madeline Lilley (‘22). “Teachers can’t develop tough ideas. I don’t like that we have more homework because of shortened class times.”
Because of the shortened class times, higher frequency of breaks, and long pauses between classes, some students end up spending the same amount of time on screens that they would have if classes were 90-minutes in length.
Many students also express annoyance with the growing loads f homework attributed to shorter class times. For some, meeting two times a week still feels like overwhelming due to the constant cycle of homework they need to complete.
Online studies are most detrimental to new students, as incoming students may have an even tougher time getting to know their peers. Entering a new school is a challenge socially even with the physical contact of in-person education. The Zoom classes simply cannot provide the same capabilities to create a social environment amongst the students.
“I dislike online school because it is hard to meet new people in Zoom,” commented Austin Ra (‘23).
Social interaction is an integral part of the high school experience. Without it, even returning students are feeling out of place.,
“The social restrictions of online learning have made it hard to collaborate with peers and get the amount of social interaction I am used to,” Maksym Graham (‘23).
Collaboration within the classroom is unmatched by anything Zoom can offer. Many Webb students lament the fact that they cannot communicate as well as they can during in–person classes. Discussions and group work are not the same as before, and students aren’t feeling the challenges they are used to.
Nevertheless, the new learning schedule provides students with more time to catch up with their work each week, offering other benefits as well. Some find the new schedule to be especially understanding with Wednesdays off.
“Having Wednesdays off allow me to sleep in, catch up on work, and prepare for the upcoming volleyball season,” said Alex.
Many feel that the absence of classes helps balance the week out while letting them take a much-needed break from the screens. The more flexible schedule also gives students the opportunities to manage their time based on personal needs, making plans that help them stay on top of their work.
“I have mixed emotions about online learning,” said Maksym. “I feel that I have more free time which allows me to better manage my time and plan ahead for my week.”
Despite being online, students still have the chance to “see” each other and faculty members during Zoom sessions, whether through weekend activities or classes. Students can also look for ways to reconnect with the Webb community through various virtual school events and club activities.
“Being able to see everyone is great because I’m a social person,” said Abbie . “It is kind of cool to see everyone’s environment in Zoom.”
The current learning mode also guarantees security and health for students located around the world. Without too much physical contact with others, students learning at home can study and live in an environment that is safe from infections.
“I like that I get to go to class and still feel safe,” said Austin.
Living in the age of COVID-19, a time of the unknown, students must realize their privileges of having a safe learning space and other benefits pf online learning. Although online learning stagnates social life and interferes with the normal learning paces, Webb students need to embody the spirit of unbounded thinking in their actions as they seek to overcome these challenges by either participating in social events on the weekends, catching up with friends, or making plans to stay organized and motivated during online learning sessions.